No reward for turning in cop killer
Clare Boothe Luce may have said that no good deed goes unpunished. But Chrisceda Clemmons has been proving it.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Clare Boothe Luce may have said that no good deed goes unpunished.
But Chrisceda Clemmons has been proving it.
Last week, Clemmons went to the Seattle Police Department to report that her nephew, cop killer Maurice Clemmons, was headed to her Leschi home.
Her information led to an 11-hour police siege. Windows were broken, furniture was upturned and everything coated with tear-gas residue. Maurice Clemmons slipped away, but he was shot by police less than a day later.
Homeowners insurance and a claim with the city of Seattle will hopefully cover loss and damage to the Leschi home.
As for the $120,000 reward that Crime Stoppers offered for information leading to Clemmons' capture?
It won't be going to Chrisceda Clemmons and her husband, Michael Shantz.
Ron Conlin, state president of the nonprofit Crime Stoppers, said the couple's tip was the kind that might warrant a reward. But they don't qualify because they didn't call Crime Stoppers first.
"We don't do rewards after the fact," said Conlin, who is also head of the Puget Sound chapter.
Crime Stoppers thrives on anonymous tips. Tipsters who offer information by phone or on the Crime Stoppers Web site are issued a code that they use to track their tip, their case, and later claim their reward.
If Crime Stoppers paid police informants like Clemmons and Shantz, Conlin said, it could not protect their anonymity, since informants can be forced to testify in open court.
I understand the importance of protecting anonymity, but what about encouraging people to do the right thing? And considering what Clemmons and Shantz have endured, is it fair?
"Whether it's fair or not is another story," Conlin said.
I explained all this to Michael Shantz's son, Absalom, 25.
"So if you're concerned about the reward, you call Crime Stoppers," he said. "But if you're concerned about saving people, you call the police?"
It doesn't seem right to me, or to the many people who wrote and called me, saying that Clemmons and Shantz had a right to all or some of the $120,000 Crime Stoppers had collected.
The reward is a tough thing for Clemmons and Shantz to discuss.
On the one hand, "We are the ones who did what we were supposed to do," Clemmons told me.
On the other hand, "We are aware of the award, but it's been a pretty minor consideration," Michael Shantz said.
Indeed, as we sat in a Madrona cafe, Chrisceda Clemmons' sister, Letricia Nelson, 52, sat in the Pierce County Jail, charged with rendering criminal assistance to Maurice Clemmons, as well as illegal possession of a handgun that he had taken from one of the murdered police officers. Her bail was set at $1.5 million.
Clemmons and Shantz acknowledged that the reward would stabilize their lives, and help rebuild their band, Bakra Bata, which has taken them to Lincoln Center and around the world.
"This would be an opportunity to strengthen the work we do with the community and the work we've been doing for 25 years," Shantz said.
They would like to start after-school music programs like the steel-drum classes that Shantz used to teach at Summit K-12, an alternative school that closed earlier this year.
Still, Chrisceda Clemmons stressed one thing: "The reward is not why we went to the police. We went for the safety of other people."
Rewards are supposed to recognize and encourage law-abiding action like theirs. It makes sense to use the worst police shooting in state history to show that Crime Stoppers means that, no matter who got the call.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She will say many prayers today.
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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